At the latest in what is becoming an annual September event for Apple, the company today announced a number of new products in time for the holiday rush. We covered the Steve Jobs' "Let's Rock" keynote live in San Francisco, and here is a roundup of the actual announcements and new products.
HD TV shows
Leading off by touting over 65 million accounts worldwide in the iTunes Store, Steve Jobs first announced the arrival of HD TV shows. Shows will cost $2.99 apiece (instead of the typical $1.99 for SD episodes), but unlike the handful of HD movies the store already has, HD TV show episodes can be watched on a computer, not just on an Apple TV. In addition, after a much-publicized breakup, NBC is also returning to the store with its most popular shows, and in HD to boot.
iTunes 8, now with more Genius
The next major announcement is iTunes 8, a major new version of Apple's media management software that governs its iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV ecosystem. Confirming "tons of new stuff" and features that were rumored over the weekend, Jobs announced a new Pandora-like "Genius" feature that can generate playlists of songs "that go great together." A new Genius Sidebar can also anonymously (and voluntarily) send your library info up to the iTunes Store cloud to make smarter recommendations of new music a customer may like. The "Genius Algorithms" that power all of this will also harness everyone's library information to fuel this new community powered music recommendation system.
A new button in the iTunes 8 interface offers easy access to these new Genius features. When you're listening to a song, for example, pressing this button will generate a new playlist based on similar music you already have in your library, as well as recommendations of music in the iTunes Store you might like. iTunes 8 should appear in Software Update for both Mac OS X and Windows users, but you can also easily grab it from iTunes.com.
New iPod nano
The first iPod-related announcement today was an actual discontinuance of the largest traditional iPod, the 160GB iPod classic. "No one buys the thick" one, Jobs said on stage. The iPod classic line will slim down to a single 120GB model for $249, which should be the same size and dimensions as the current 80GB model.
The iPod nano line got a refresh today with an entirely new version as "the thinnest iPod we've ever made." (First, hands-on review of Infinite Loop) It has an oval, tapered shape with a black wheel, and fits "beautifully" with the iPod nano's original, taller portait design. The new iPod nano can create Genius playlists on the go, without having to connect to iTunes, and it also gained the accelerometer from the iPhone and iPod touch for viewing Cover Flow album art, photos, and video when turned sideways. The iPod nano is also gaining a number of new hardware and software features that typically could only be had through third-party accessories (if at all), such as a built-in voice recorder and the ability to shake it to shuffle.
Other new iPod nano features include an iPhone-like headphone set with a new clicker, volume control, and microphone. You can double-click to skip to the next song, press once to pause, three times to go to the previous song, and record voice memos with a microphone on the other side. This set of headphones will cost $29 and arrive next month, along with a new set of higher quality in-ear headphones that will sell for $79." We think we really got it right this time," Jobs said about the new headphones.
Apple claims a "great" battery life for the iPod nano with 24 hours of music and 4 hours for video. The new iPod nanoshould be in stock in the next few days, if not early next week, and will cost $149 for 8GB, $199 for 16GB.
New iPod touches
Calling the iPod touch "an incredible product," Jobs bragged that even though it's "unlike anything in the marketplace… well, for the holiday season we're making it even better." The new iPod touch (first hands-on review on Infinite Loop) has the same 3.5" display but gets thinner with a tapered, stainless steel back (probably to differentiate it from the iPhone). The iPod touch will gain the iPhone's integrated volume controls on its side, and gains a built-in speaker like the iPhone which Jobs claimed was "really hard for something this thin, for casual listening." Genius playlist creation will also be built into the iPod touch.
Another unique feature of the new iPod touch is the integration of the Nike+iPod system for tracking running statistics. Unlike the iPod nano, the hardware receiver has been built into the iPod touch.
The new iPod touch is rated for an "astounding" 36 hours of music and 6 hours of video, will work with the same new clicker headphones as the nano, and is available today in sizes of 8GB for $229, 16GB for $299, and 32GB for $399. Steve Jobs' and Apple's marketing tout the new iPod touch as "the funnest iPod ever." No, that isn't a typo.
New iPhone OS 2.1
The iPhone also got some time in the spotlight today with the much-anticipated announcement of iPhone OS 2.1, the software and firmware that runs both the iPhone and iPod touch. The major update should "significantly" improve battery life, problems with droppped calls, fix a lot of bugs, and backing up to iTunes should be "dramatically" faster. New iPod touches ship with the 2.1 OS update, and it should be available to download for free for all other iPhone and iPod touch owners running iPhone OS 2.0 this Friday. iPod touch owners still using 1.x will need to pay the 2.x upgrade fee of $9.99.
That's a wrap
Jobs ended the event by exclaiming that this is the "Strongest lineup of iPods we've ever had for holiday season '08." As Apple typically ends major keynotes with a performance, Jack Johnson took the stage to wrap up the event.Posted on